At 22, most of us have just about graduated. At 22, the proudest moment of ours is likely to be the awkward photo of us holding that piece of paper wrapped in a little string-like ribbon, dressed in a gown that is unflattering in every way and a slightly creepy grin from ear to ear. For 22-year-old Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, though, he is a full England international who has played alongside Arsenal legends such as Thierry Henry.
The Premier League is often famed for its high intensity and fast paced nature. Certain players are more suited to the league than others. Clubs propose their own style of play and philosophy and Chamberlain is a player who slots right into Arsenal's ethos.
Arsenal did as Arsenal do in the summer of 2011, and went on the hunt for fresh, young and exciting talent. Enter - Chamberlain. The then 18-year-old Southampton winger signed for Arsene Wenger for a reported fee of around £15 million. Following a similar path to teammate Theo Walcott, fans were intrigued to see what attributes the player possessed to enhance the squad.
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There is real temptation to judge Chamberlain of someone with far more senior merit considering his experience at the tender age of just 22. With a big money move at 18, countless feats in an Arsenal shirt and in excess of 20 England appearances it is easy to forget his youth.
But that didn't pose a threat for the England international in matches like the 2015 Community Shield against Chelsea. He put in a worthy match-winning performance and was by far the best player on the pitch. Let us not forget, the likes of Eden Hazard who claimed the seasons previous Young Player of the Year award played in that game too. But it was the Arsenal midfielder who came out on top, securing the trophy for his club through a sweet finish.
The Gunners are not shy of criticism for their summer transfers - and lack of. But, when it comes to Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, surely they have learnt their lesson of dealing with league rivals. Chamberlain must remain an Arsenal player this summer.
Arsenal is Ox's home
The Ox almost typifies Arsenal through his qualities as a player. He encapsulates Arsenal through his performances. At times, magnificent, unstoppable almost, but at other times, unsure and frail.
The pacy midfielder displays power, pace and purpose whilst he is not short of technical ability either and his silky ball skills sit amongst some of the most skillful at the Arsenal. He provides Arsenal with an outlet that is craved at the Emirates. He takes on defenders, and often gets the better of them in one v one situations, he fiercely runs with the ball and has a keen eye for goal outside of the box.
In a team where a title bid should be a possibility each year, it is hard labour to rely on potential. The Emirates faithful can be quick to reprimand Chamberlain for an occasional miscued shot or pass. It is as if they are aware of his full capabilities and are screaming for the Ox to finally fulfill his promise and avoid a repeat of Theo Walcott's wobbly career.
Injuries have robbed the young gun of a real chance to prove his full threat. There has been encouraging glimpses, however, and the red and white outfit would be hurting themselves to let a youngster of his calibre leave whether it be to another league rival or abroad. Despite his potential not being a justified reason to some for his tenure to continue on the red side of north London, the only real threat Arsenal boast is an array of quality attacking options. Chamberlain being one of them.
He is a versatile player who can be played down the flanks and in the centre of midfield. And play well, may it be said. He is equally capable of coming from a deeper position and in fact, some of his best performances have come from the central midfield role.
Of course, his goal scoring record and assists could be better. But, with injuries and big-time professionals such as Mesut Ozil and Alexis Sanchez being called upon ahead of him, it is understandably difficult to get the better of the club's critics.
Some of the criticism seems unwarranted. Arsene Wenger has said: "he has such a high expectation level that he’s very demanding of his performances." This should be no sorrow to Arsenal fans. As a team, their desire and fight is questioned far too often. Here we have an example of an Arsenal player who is dedicated to bettering himself.
Arsenal have sold too many vital players over the years. Cesc Fabregas and Robin van Persie to name a just a couple. Chamberlain is still developing, and footballers tend to reach their peak around 26 or 27 years of age. Regardless of his youth, his CV boasts impressive experience at the highest level of both domestic and international competitions. He has played with and against some of the best footballers in the game. He trains with midfield maestro's Ozil, Sanchez and Santi Cazorla every day under the experienced watch of Wenger. Could his teachers be much better?
With reports spreading of increased interest from the managerial powerhouse that is Pep Guardiola, ahead of his move to Manchester City, it is even more of a reason for the teen prodigy to stay. Interest from Guardiola is flattery that is second to none, surely that is a solid reason to make the ears of all who love Arsenal and Chamberlain perk up and permit enough of a reason to keep him at the Emirates.
Arsenal pride themselves on nurturing home-grown young talent. Why throw it away now? It will come back to haunt them, just as their other rash summer transfers.
Whether he is in the starting 11 or his number is held up on the substitutes board as he prepares to step into the field of play, his is not a name that instills worry in Arsenal fans. He is a strong candidate and a valid option to come on and can change games given the minutes on the pitch.
Chamberlain is a favourite in the dressing room as well as with young Gunners fans. With his lively personality able to lift spirits, he would be sorely missed in grim predicaments, which Arsenal find themselves in more often than not.
With an injury-disrupted season and far too many introductions on the bench, his development has been somewhat hindered. He is a hard working, skilful and dedicated player who just needs consistency to one day form into one of England's elite players.
Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain deserves to be and should remain an Arsenal player, else it is the Gunners who will suffer.
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